DHS sets rules for better management
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 12, 2004
The Homeland Security Department's new directive, issued more than a month ago, lays the ground rules for greater interaction and cooperation among officials in five critical management areas.
The management directive, which was approved by outgoing Secretary Tom Ridge Oct. 28, governs administration, finances, procurement, information technology and human resources.
"The whole idea is that they have to have principles and documentation for how a structure is going to work, and that's the idea of this directive," said Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman.
He said the directive instructs the chiefs of each area to form management councils and lists responsibilities associated with each council.
For example, Orluskie said the chief financial officer has formed a council composed of other CFOs at DHS. The council has seven responsibilities, including developing a strategic plan for setting priorities for financial management. The CIO and chief human capital officer have also formed councils. However, the directive does not specify how often they should meet, he said.
Orluskie said the directive also instructs each operations chief to provide service-level agreements in writing for the other department chiefs. "It also puts in writing that there will be an annual evaluation for the performance of the functions that's also inside each management directive," he added.
"It's not an earthshaking new directive," he said. "It's doesn't redefine anything. It doesn't create new departments of anything like that. It just pretty much lays out an order of how the departments will work together."
I.M. "Mac" Destler, a University of Maryland professor and expert on DHS' reorganization efforts, said the focus will shift to Ridge's successor. President Bush has nominated Bernard Kerik, whose appointment is awaiting confirmation by the Senate.
"Ridge is very good politically, and he's liked," Destler said. "I just don't think he's been that strong or forceful a leader and the question is if you really take the department seriously what do you want?"
Donald Kettl, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said he had not seen the new directive, but he gives the department mixed reviews on its progress. It's been a short time for what could be considered the single biggest organizational transformation in American history, but he said as basic issues such as the problem of coordinating watch lists show, there's still a long way to go.
Another issue worth investigating is how much of DHS' management intelligence or strategic thinking — for example, on information technology and workforce issues — is being done in house vs. contracted out, he said. Several Government Accountability Office reports issued during the past year stress that department officials need to better integrate systems and provide more resources to the CIO's office to get the job done.
"I don't have clear data on this, but I've heard enough worrying things from people who are concerned about contracting out of the department's intelligence ... about how to best run the organization," Kettl said.